USS Clueless - International Criminal Court

Stardate 20020701.1522

(On Screen): There are some issues on which there can be no compromise. An honest government will recognize them and dig in its heels when they are brought up, and will quite properly ignore international pressure about them.

The United States cannot and will not compromise on the International Criminal Court. Commentary from various European governmental representatives and blathering heads are, for the most part, talking around the reason why. Either it's because they're disingenuous or because they truly don't understand us and our system. For instance, the BBC comments:

To its European and other critics, United States opposition to the Court seems to be based on a fundamental unwillingness to limit American sovereignty in any way.

That makes it sound like we're petulant children unwilling to compromise because we're stupid, ignorant and stubborn. (Where have we heard that before.) Sorry, but it's much deeper than that.

We keep running into this. Again and again, in international treaty negotiations, the Europeans would come up with some grand idea for a treaty clause which had the slight flaw that it violated the US Constitution. They'd then apply pressure to the US to agree to such clauses, and US negotiators would refuse, and the US would get denounced for being stubborn, unilateralist, not a team player. Never mind that stupid Bill of Rights; it's just a piece of paper. National charters are a thing of the past, obsolescent; we're moving past that into postmodern internationalism and trying to form a world confederation, and the only way we can do it is if every country gives up its own sovereignty and becomes part of that process. Now, are you going to play along, or what?

And the answer is, invariably, "or what". No, we're not going to play along. For instance, there was a treaty on biological weapons and part of the enforcement provisions for it would have granted international monitors the right to go anywhere they wanted, to search anything they wanted, any time they wanted, without producing any kind of probable cause or getting any kind of search warrant. The principle is understandable, but it runs right smacko up against the 4th Amendment prohibitions against "unreasonable searches and seizures". The US Government itself doesn't have the ability to look anywhere it wants anytime it wants, and it isn't capable of granting that right to international monitors, either.

There was also a treaty being negotiated about the Internet. One of the provisions of it would have forced every nation to honor online content limitations of other nations, and to enforce their laws. This is basically the Yahoo-France problem: Yahoo had material on its web site in the US which could be accessed from France and which was illegal under French law. A court there tried to issue an order to Yahoo in the US forcing the material to be taken offline. Under this treaty, such a court order would have been binding. It also would have violated First Amendment provisions on free expression, and would have permitted any signatory government anywhere in the world to impose any controls it liked over everything posted online by any American on servers located in the US, as long as that other government could demonstrate that the content could be accessed through the net by its own citizens in violation of its own laws.

The US negotiators made very clear: they could not agree to such a provision because of the Bill of Rights. The US refused to ratify the agreement (it wasn't even signed or proposed to the Senate), and there were yet more accusations against the US of not playing along, of unilateralism, of being self centered, of preventing progress, and on and on. It's like a broken record.

Let's see: there was also an attempt at an arm's control treaty which would have violated the Second Amendment's prohibition against infringement of our right to keep and bear arms. (That one's a favorite whipping boy of foreigners.) And there's the International Criminal Court, which violates Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution.

This keeps happening. The problem is that in Europe their Constitutions are all relatively recent (if they have Constitutions at all) and they are set up in such a way that they can be changed rather easily. Usually all that's required is a legislative measure which may require some sort of super-majority. They do not understand what the US Constitution means to us; they think that we can just ignore it or modify it as necessary, and that we should do so in order to be team players.

What we're running up against here is extremely deep philosophical differences about government itself. The entire American system is based on the assumption that governments can't be trusted, and that unchecked power will eventually be abused. Our entire system is based on the principle of having checks in place to prevent that from happening. Everything in our government is accountable to the people, either

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004